If there are two books that I read exclusively because I saw them over and over again on #bookstagram, Secret History and Still Life are them.
Secret History by Donna Tartt is a murder novel (not a murder mystery because there isn’t really a big reveal in the end) about a group of students who commit a murder and have to live the rest of their lives with that fact. The book gave me huge existential vibes because the students are part of a small select group who are studying greek mythology and the beginning of the book focuses strongly on their work. I really enjoyed this aspect and thought it brought so much depth to the book. Months after reading it, I still find myself repeating ONE quote to myself and thinking how interesting it is that I can’t clearly remember the ending, but this quote won’t seem to leave my mind.
“We think we have many desires, but in fact we have only one. What is it?”
“To live,” said Camilla.
“To live forever,” said Bunny, chin cupped in palm.
I don’t know why, but of every line in the 550 page novel, I cannot shake that line. It just rings true.
Months later I picked up Still Life by Louise Penny and was shocked at how much it brought me back to The Secret History. I expected Louise Penny’s writing to remind me of Tana French, because they are both so beloved and as a result often compared. However, Still Life gave me major existential vibes with passages like this,
“Something drove them to ask for help and to look deep inside themselves. And the catalyst was often change and loss.”
“Are they the same thing?”
“For someone not well skilled at adapting they can be”
“Loss of control?”
“That’s a huge one, of course. Most of us are great with change, as long as it was our idea. But change imposed from the outside can send some people in to a tailspin. I think Brother Albert hit it on the head. Life is loss. But out of that, as the book stresses, comes freedom. If we can accept that nothing is permanent, and change is inevitable, if we can adapt, then we’re going to be happier people.”
Overall, I found that the Still Life had more character development, longer chapters, and more existentialism than a typical thriller, and I was really pleasantly surprised with the way the book ran.